Opening-Night Reminder:
State Of North Carolina Has Become
Center Of College Basketball Universe

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

A half-century ago, the center of the college basketball universe was undoubtedly a single program, under a legendary leader, based in a land far, far away.

Coach John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood,” led UCLA on what remains the most dominant streak in the history of the sport: 10 NCAA titles in the 12-year period from 1964-75.

Since then, gradually, the state of North Carolina, thanks to a stunning variety of championship-caliber coaches, players, teams and programs, has pulled that epicenter of success directly into a college-hoops crazed region more than 2,500 miles to the East.

Just in case anyone thinks that’s debatable, here are some receipts. Lots of ‘em.

Carolina, Duke Lead The Way

The starting point in this center-of-the-universe debate is, of course, national championships.

After more than eight full decades of NCAA Tournament action, plus the end of the 1930s and here into the early 2020s, there are only six programs with five or more NCAA titles.

Two of them, UNC and Duke, are located roughly eight miles apart, world-famous rivals based in the heart of ACC country. The other four are scattered among the Big East/Northeast (Connecticut), the Big Ten/Midwest (Indiana), the SEC/Southeast (Kentucky) and the Pac-12/West (UCLA).

While UCLA and Kentucky still can claim the biggest single-school numbers (see below), the all-important depth/variety category is clear.

Advantage, state of North Carolina.

Meanwhile, only older fans remember UCLA and Indiana as regular national championship contenders, and even Kentucky has just one NCAA title since 1998. UConn offers the opposite theme; all five of the Huskies’ championships have come in the last 25 years. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils, of course, regularly have been dominant before and since the turn of the century.

Advantage, state of North Carolina.

Programs With Most NCAA Titles (Trend)

1. UCLA — 11 (one since 1975)
2. Kentucky — 8 (one since 1998)
3. North Carolina — 6 (three before 2000, three since 2000)
4t. Connecticut — 5 (first in 1999)
4t. Duke — 5 (two before 2000, three since 2000)
4t. Indiana — 5 (none since 1987)

Wolfpack Adds Historic Depth

Only 15 Division I men’s basketball programs have won multiple NCAA titles, and three of them are based in the Triangle area of North Carolina: UNC, Duke and NC State. The Wolfpack won its NCAA titles in 1974 and 1983.

Elsewhere, only the states of California (UCLA and San Francisco) and Kentucky (Louisville and UK) have more than one program that fits this description.

State — Multiple NCAA Title Programs (School-Titles)

1. North Carolina — 3 (UNC-6, Duke-5, NC State-2)
2t. California — 2 (UCLA-11, San Francisco-2)
2t. Kentucky — 2 (Kentucky-8, Louisville-3)
4t. Connecticut — 1 (UConn-5)
4t. Florida — 1 (Florida-2)
4t. Indiana — 1 (Indiana-5)
4t. Kansas — 1 (Kansas-3)
4t. Michigan — 1 (Michigan State-2)
4t. Ohio — 1 (Cincinnati-2)
4t. Oklahoma — 1 (Oklahoma State-2)
4t. Pennsylvania — 1 (Villanova-3)

Modern Dominance, Consistency Matter

When the NCAA Tournament started in 1939, it didn’t look much like the March Madness of today. Into the mid-1950s, for example, it wasn’t even automatically the best postseason event in the sport; the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) often had a more prominent field, and sometimes teams would participate in both events.

It wasn’t until 1980 that there were no limits on the number of teams from a single conference that could participate in the Big Dance. The limit was one through 1974, then two through 1979. This helped UCLA, which dominated the old Pac-8, but hurt (among others) many ACC teams, which could post a top-10 regular season yet miss the tournament entirely.

Since the rules changed, the state of North Carolina clearly has led the way, with Duke and UNC sitting atop Madness Mountain. Only one other state, Kentucky, can claim more than one program (Louisville and UK) with multiple national championships in this modern era.

Multiple NCAA Titles Since 1980

1t. Duke — 5 (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015)
1t. North Carolina — 5 (1982, 1993, 2005, 2009, 2017)
1t. Connecticut — 5 (1999, 2004, 2011, 2014, 2023)
4t. Kansas — 3 (1988, 2008, 2022)
4t. Kentucky — 3 (1996, 1998, 2012)
4t. Louisville — 3 (1980, 1986, 2013)
4t. Villanova — 3 (1985, 2016, 2018)
8t. Florida — 2 (2006, 2007)
8t. Indiana — 2 (1981, 1987)

Whereas UCLA has only one NCAA title in the almost half-century since its famous run, the state of North Carolina collectively offers incredible consistency, too. For four decades running, some combination of Duke-UNC-NCSU has been responsible for two or three of the 10 titles available.

State of North Carolina Titles By Decade

1980s — 2 (1982 UNC, 1983 NC State)
1990s — 3 (1991 Duke, 1992 Duke, 1993 UNC)
2000s — 3 (2001 Duke, 2005 UNC, 2009 UNC)
2010s — 3 (2010 Duke, 2015 Duke, 2017 UNC)

Consistency? Advantage, state of North Carolina.

Quality Depth Helps, Too

Of the 19 Division I men’s basketball programs in North Carolina, 16 have participated in the NCAA Tournament, seven of them 10 times or more. That’s quality depth, well beyond the Big Four schools from the ACC, a power conference with multiple bids every year.

School — NCAA Bids (Most Recent)

1. North Carolina — 52 (2022)
2. Duke — 45 (2023)
3. NC State — 28 (2023)
4. Wake Forest — 23 (2017)
5. Davidson — 15 (2022)
6. Charlotte — 11 (2005)
7. North Carolina A&T — 10 (2013)
8. UNC Wilmington — 6 (2017)
9. UNC Asheville — 5 (2023)
10t. NC Central — 4 (2019)
10t. UNC Greensboro — 4 (2021)
12. Appalachian State — 3 (2021)
13. East Carolina — 2 (1993)
14t. Campbell — 1 (1992)
14t. Gardner-Webb — 1 (2019)
14t. Western Carolina — 1 (1996)
17t. Elon — 0
17t. High Point — 0
17t. Queens — 0

Wake Forest went to the Final Four in 1962, and the Demon Deacons have been to the Sweet 16 nine times. Their 1995 and 1996 trips came with All-American center Tim Duncan as their star, and their 2004 visit came with All-American point guard Chris Paul leading the way.

Davidson has been to the Elite Eight three times, most recently with All-American guard Steph Curry shooting the lights out for the Wildcats in 2008. Charlotte went to the Final Four, led by All-American forward Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell, in 1977.

North Carolina Central didn’t complete its transition from Division II to Division I until 2011, but since then coach LeVelle Moton has taken the Eagles to the Big Dance four times as the champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, a one-bid league.

Elon, High Point and Queens, the only North Carolina-based schools still seeking their first NCAA bids, have been Division I members only since 1999, 1999 and 2022, respectively.

Monday’s 2023-24 NC D1 Regular-Season Openers

Radford at #19 North Carolina, 7 pm, ACCN
Erskine at Gardner-Webb, 7 pm, ESPN+
Mount Olive at UNC Wilmington, 7 pm, FloHoops
St. Andrews at High Point, 7 pm, ESPN+
Washington and Lee at Davidson, 7 pm, ESPN+
Ferrum at East Carolina, 7 pm, ESPN+
The Citadel at NC State, 7 pm, ACCNX/ESPN+
Queens at Marshall, 7 pm, ESPN+
Maine at Charlotte, 7 pm, ESPN+
North Carolina A&T at Pittsburgh, 7 pm, ACCNX/ESPN+
NC Central at #1 Kansas, 8 pm, ESPN+
Navy at Campbell, 8 pm, FloHoops
Elon at Wake Forest, 8 pm, ACCNX/ESPN+
Dartmouth at #2 Duke, 9 pm, ACCN